U.S. President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House after arriving on Marine One in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday as his administration announced plans to protect hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers from deportation. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The Biden administration is offering protection from deportation, granted to hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans already in the United States, to hundreds of thousands more, U.S. officials said Wednesday, citing the "extraordinary and temporary conditions" in the South American nation.
The Department of Homeland Security announced in March 2021 that it was designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status, which permitted Venezuelans in the United States to apply for TPS deportation protection and work eligibility.
More than 242,000 Venezuelans have taken advantage of the program but President Joe Biden, whose administration has been plagued by border issues, has been under pressure to do more as record-levels of migrants enter the country.
Members of his own Democratic Party, including New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the states' governor, Kathy Hochul, have called on Biden to do more to help the migrants weighing down their cities and states, including offering them work permits.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it was extending the TPS deportation protection another 18 months for those already under the program and redesignating Venezuela so that migrants and asylum seekers from the South American country, in the United States as of July 31, may apply.
"Temporary protected status provides individuals already present in the United States with protection from removal when the conditions in their home country prevent their safe return," Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.
"That is the situation that Venezuelans who arrived here on or before July 31 of this year find themselves in. We are accordingly granting them the protection that the law provides."
Venezuelans who arrived in the United States after July 31 are not eligible for protection and will be removed, he said.
According to Department of Homeland Security figures, this redesignation will affect some 472,000 Venezuelans who were in the country prior to August.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, both Democrats from New York, said the expansion and redesignation was a "welcome stop forward" and one that they had been advocating for.
"As a result of this decision, immigrants will be temporarily allowed to work, fill needed jobs and support their families while awaiting an asylum determination," they wrote in a joint statement. "The determination will also substantially reduce the cost to New York taxpayers with respect to the sheltering of asylum-seekers."
Citing the Department of Homeland Security, the Democratic pair said more than half of the immigrants in New York will be affected by this decision.
The announcement comes less than two weeks after Adams gave a fiery speech in the Upper West Side, stating they were dealing with 10,000 new migrants a month. According to recent figures, more than 116,000 asylum seekers have come to New York City since the spring.
"New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to," he said. "I don't see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City."
On Wednesday, Adams thanked Biden for listening to their needs and taking the step to help thousands of Venezuelans. He said he is hopeful that this will lead to offering the same protection to migrants from other countries.
"I personally spoke to the White House tonight to hear about this development and express my gratitude and support for this important decision that we have been advocating for since April," Adams said.
Hochul, New York's democratic governor, also extended her gratitude to the president but said in a statement "there's more work to do as we address this crisis."